I’ve been playing Commander with my kitchen-table group of friends since the original Commander decks were produced by Wizards of the Coast. I remember sitting in the food court area at GenCon back in 2011 with newly opened Commander decks. We had no idea what we were getting into, but we have had great fun with the format.
In case you have been hiding under a rock for the past couple weeks, you should know that the Commander rules committee adjusted the rules of the format so that when your commander is changing zones to your hand or your library, you can now choose to send it instead to the command zone. In the past, the hand and library were the only two places a commander could be sent without the “send to the command zone” replacement effect.
My play group never really understood the tucking rule. It didn’t seem to fit the format. Why would a format that bends over backwards to keep its commander within reach have this complex way to hide another player’s commander in their deck?
Elder Dragon HIGHLANDER
In Elder Dragon Highlander, “There can be only one.” The “Gathering” in Magic: The Gathering may have gotten its original name partly from the “game” played by immortals in Highlander, powerful beings searching for and defeating one another in combat.
The Commander format takes that idea one step further and identifies a legendary creature as the commander to serve in the immortal planeswalker’s place. That creature should assume an immortal role in games of Commander by being available to cast from the command zone no matter how many times the creature is killed or removed from play. Under the rules of Highlander, an immortal keeps coming back until you chop off its head. In Magic, that means taking your opponent’s life total to zero.
Tucking the commander never felt right. It felt like getting your head cut off, but without the instant-death effect. Instead, death came slowly over the next 14 turns as your commander deck bled all over the floor.
Tucking was always just a little too complicated to explain to new Commander players. It should be simple to explain. If your commander is removed from play in any manner, you can have it go to the command zone instead.
Tucking complicates the dance between the command zone and all other zones. Instead of being simple, explaining where the commander goes based on which effect is resolving was always face-melting.
“If your commander dies, you can put it back in the command zone instead of the graveyard. If it gets exiled, same thing. Now, if it gets sent to the bottom of your library, you are out of luck.” Huh? I’ve been asked why tucking was the rule, and I have never really been able to explain it. Flavor-wise, it does not make sense. Rule simplification-wise, it still does not make sense.
Where Did My Deck Go?
When I build Commander decks, I use my commander card as the focal point. It is a Johnny’s wet dream! You know you will have access to the commander card all game long, so you can fantasize about all those crazy interactions between your commander and the rest of your deck.
When the commander card is tucked, all your dreams turn into poopy diapers. When a commander is tucked, a lot of the fun of a deck is tucked with it. I am glad the rules committee said “no more.”
It should be noted that there are some long-time Magic players out there who will get into Commander precisely because tucking is no longer involved.
Do you have friends who play Magic, but hate Commander, like Marcel of Brainstorm Brewery fame? Maybe the death of tucking will tempt some experienced Magic players who had a bad tuck experience or just thought that tucking was too counterintuitive among the other rules of the format. I believe that removing the tuck rule and making the interaction between commanders and zones simple will keep more players engaged with the format. More players keeps the format healthier.
Tutors Still Fun
Will we play fewer tutors? I doubt it. In a 100-card singleton format, tutors buy a little more consistency. Plus, there is always that one combo that ends the game.
If you aren’t playing at least one game-ending combo in your Commander decks, you should consider adding them. Sometimes, we just need to put the game out of its misery. Tutors get that job done nicely. I don’t agree with the rules committee that changing the tuck rule will decrease the number of tutors people are playing. Tutors are still very good (and fun!) in a format with 99-card libraries.
I have listened to the belly-aching from many a podcast host and column writer over the rule change. I think it is a positive one that simplifies the rules and stays true to the spirit of the original Elder Dragon Highlander. I am guessing the tuck rule was in place because of troublesome commanders with few outs. Instead of creating a rule that complicates the game, ban those commanders. I think the committee was correct in this rule change. Could we see some new commander bannings in the future resulting from this change? I think it is highly likely.
My brother has a [card]Brago, King Eternal[/card] deck. He loves Brago. Everyone else hates it. When Brago comes out, it gets tucked. Every time. When we see Brago sitting in the command zone, we save our tuck effects for it.
The result is that my brother never gets to play his Brago deck. There are other ways to deal with the Brago deck without tucking Brago, but tucking the commander is the easiest way to deal with it, so that is how we do it.
Now that the rules have changed, we will have to start investigating the other ways to deal with the Brago deck without tucking. My brother gets to play his Brago deck, and we get a new challenge, figuring out a new way to make him suffer. That seems like a win for everyone.